This 28% increase in visitor numbers contributed to a record consumer spend of £397 million – nearly double the £201 million generated in 2012 when figures were last calculated. The city’s hotel trade also benefited, enjoying an average occupancy rate of 84% during the Christmas Markets programme, up from 79% in 2012.
Birmingham’s festive offer in 2014 saw its Christmas Markets – the largest of their kind in the UK – attract audiences from across Europe. They formed the centrepiece of an extensive festive programme that saw a host of events and activities take place across the region.
Councillor Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “These record-breaking visitor numbers demonstrate the quality and wide appeal of Birmingham’s Christmas Markets. Our extensive festive programme has drawn visitors from across the UK and Europe, all of whom have enjoyed the city’s retail and events offer, as well as the famous Birmingham welcome.
“The positive figures form an excellent base for 2015, which is set to be one of Birmingham’s most exciting periods in over a decade.”
Birmingham is set to build upon the success of its Christmas Markets as it welcomes the world with a series of international tourism trade delegations visiting the region in the first quarter of 2015.
The region – together with Warwickshire and the Cotswolds – will host more than 50 leading travel buyers from India and Japan at the end of February as part of ExploreGB – a new, flagship event developed by national tourism body VisitBritain. The familiarisation tour will showcase the region’s retail, heritage and family offer with visits to Selfridges and the National SEA LIFE centre, as well as highlighting its connectivity to London.
The ExploreGB event follows a visit to the region earlier this month from a group of key Icelandic journalists to launch the new Birmingham-Reykjavik service by Icelandair. The trip highlighted the region’s rich history, wide range of attractions and exceptional cuisine with visits to venues including Simpsons Restaurant, the Balti Triangle, the Belfry and Edgbaston Stadium.
Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport, said: “By playing host to important tourism delegations from across the globe in the coming weeks, we are opening up the region to a whole new visitor base, further increasing our international appeal.
“2015 is already shaping up to be another great year for the Airport, with record passenger numbers in January adding to the launch of Icelandair’s new service between Reykjavik and Birmingham. We look forward to welcoming more visitors to the area this year than ever before.”
This month also sees Birmingham host a number of Australian travel consultants to promote the region’s leisure tourism offer ahead of two major international sporting events involving Australia in 2015. In July, Edgbaston Stadium welcomes the third Ashes Test Match, while Villa Park – home of Aston Villa Football Club – stages the Rugby World Cup fixture between Australia and Uruguay in September.
Birmingham will welcome 10 of Germany’s leading conference and events organisers at the end of February to highlight its business tourism credentials. In association with VisitEngland, the delegation – from eight German cities which fly directly into Birmingham Airport – will visit venues including Hilton Garden Inn, Aston Villa, Birmingham Hippodrome and Hotel du vin.
The city will also have a presence at this year’s Best of Britain and Ireland (BoBI) exhibition at the NEC on 11th and 12th March, showcasing its offer to 3,000 targeted decision makers from the UK’s tourism sector.
Emma Gray, Director of Marketing Services at Marketing Birmingham, which operates the leisure and business tourism programmes Visit and Meet Birmingham, said: “The success of the Christmas Markets programme not only rounds off an exceptional year for Birmingham’s visitor economy, but provides a ripple effect for continued success throughout the wider region in 2015.
“Birmingham is proudly welcoming the world in 2015, with international sporting events such as the Ashes and Rugby World Cup. We are committed to raising the region’s profile across wider international markets.
“This year will be one of Birmingham’s busiest, with major attractions and institutions such as Cadbury World, Birmingham Cathedral and Birmingham Royal Ballet all celebrating key anniversaries as well as the arrival of new retail and leisure offerings including Resorts World and Grand Central. We have more to offer visitors than ever, and we anticipate record-breaking numbers of both domestic and international tourists in the region right across 2015.”